By Alan J. Chwick & Joanne D. Eisen
New York, NY –-(Ammoland.com)- The most recent weapon control conference is rolling along at UN headquarters in New York City.
The Review Conference 2012 (RevCon 2012) of the UN’s Programme of Action (PoA) to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its aspects, is in full swing.
The PoA proponents argue that civilian firearms are not their target. They only wish to control the illicit weapons possessed by tyrants and felons. But this is not true, as the proponents are at odds with member states who do not wish to control civilian firearms at all.
This is a basic disagreement between member states which has plagued the PoA from its inception in 2001. It has caused diplomats to dance around the words of their statements. What is the status of civilian-owned weapons?
Proponents of weapon controls cannot, without creating a storm of protest, state their intent to disarm civilians. So they stay glued to the ‘illegal trade’ scenario. But every now and then, someone slips and lets the world realize that they have not really changed their agenda.
In order to understand the scam, we must go back in time to the original PoA documents, many of which have been blocked. Those documents which are still available are very telling. At the close of the PoA of 2001, the president of the conference, Camilo Reyes Rodriguez of Columbia, admitted that there was dissension.
He said, “I must, as President, also express my disappointment over the Conference’s inability to agree, due to the concerns of one State, on language recognizing the need to establish and maintain controls over private ownership of these deadly weapons…” (http://www.un.org/events/smallarms2006/pdf/N0150720.pdf).
John Bolton, then US Under Secretary for Arms Control, had made a simple, but definitve, statement that has reverberated through the years, saying “We do not support measures that prohibit civilian possession of small arms”
The 2006 Red Book, ”Reviewing Action on Small Arms” (http://www.international-alert.org/sites/default/files/publications/reviewing-action-on-small-arms.pdf), a series of books published by IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms), a group that advocates for civilian disarmament, explained what happened and how the disarmament community responded.
Their response, “Civilian possession and associated trade…were among the most intensely debated issues at the 2001 conference, and, up until the last moments of negotiation, the PoA contained stronger commitments on these issues.” The authors additionally complained that, “States have increasingly recognised that adequate implementation of the PoA…requires effective control over the possession and trade of small arms by and for civilians.” The authors conclude with, “Thus, while the PoA’s explicit handling of civilian possession issues is negligible, these issues have been recognised by a significant number of states as a central element of effective action in combatting the illicit trade and the misuse of SALW.”
This is the dilemma in which the disarmament community finds itself in — They cannot use the PoA to preach control of civilian firearms, but they believe that they require this control in order to achieve the successful outcome of reduced weapons violence. The success they desire remains, after more than a decade, invisible.
They have defined successful disarmament as 30% of the world’s illicit weapons, in order to cover up the fact that they can not achieve a higher figure. They have not been able to document a reduction in violence because of their efforts, either. Jim McLay, the UN Ambassador from New Zealand writes that the significant achievement of the PoA has been to focus international attention on the illicit flow of arms. But has the PoA been effective?
He answers, “it is almost impossible to aquire an accurate picture of Programme of Action implementation and effectiveness, Moreover, the results of those more limited assessments that have been undertaken have not been encouraging” (http://www.irinnews.org/report/95767/COTE-D-IVOIRE-Will-DDR-work-this-time).
The Ambassador believes that the issue of civilian possession will remain “a certain recipe for acrimonious debate,” and warns that the effort to revisit the debate “could easily put the whole process at risk.”
Nevertheless, the proponents’ frustration slips through. Although fully aware that demands for banning civilian weapons would create chaos, there is a great amount of pressure to fully control firearms and their owners.
The Small Arms Monitor 5.2, August 28, 2012, “News in Brief” (http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/salw/2012revcon/sam/SAM-5.2.pdf), reported that NAM (Non-Aligned Nations) :
“called for control over private ownership of small arms and encouraged all states to ensure that the supply of SALW (Small Arms and Light Weapons) is limited only to governments or authorized entities.”
The PoA proponents wrongly believe that civilian disarmament can bring about a peaceful world. We will see how long they wait.
About the authors
Dr. Joanne D. Eisen practices dentistry on Long Island, NY, and has written on firearm politics for the past 20 years. Most recently, Eisen has also written with Alan J. Chwick.
The co-authored writings of Eisen and Chwick can be found at http://gallanteisen.incnf.org, which contains more detailed information about their biographies and writing, and contains hyperlinks to many of their articles. They can also be found, focusing on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), at http://gwg.incnf.org.